Category Archives: travel

There will be art: The Getty Villa and Getty Center in Los Angeles

Getty Villa

Getty Museum Courtyard

The late oil tycoon J. Paul Getty rather off-handedly created two massive monuments to himself in Los Angeles: The Getty Villa and the Getty Center, which are probably the leading tourist attractions for grownups (I would say “for adults,” but “adult” seems to mean “porn” these days). A much better use of massive oil profits than, say, spreading ignorance about anthropogenic global climate change. Although they are both billed as art museums, the architecture is what knocks your socks off.

The Villa, on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, requires reservations, which you can usually get online a day in advance in the winter, but more advance planning would be advisable at other times. Admission is free, but they do charge 15 dollars/vehicle for parking. The collection features antiquities of Greek, Roman and Etruscan origin. They are housed in a “campus” of buildings loosely based on the architecture of ancient Pompeii. Tours and films (and occasional lectures and symposia) are available free of charge and are listed in a little handout “Today at the Getty Villa”; early arrival is recommended to get the best selection. Flocks of docents, guards, and other staff are constantly at hand. The cafe is nice and the gift shop well-stocked.

Getty Center, which includes the J. Paul Getty Museum, is roughly ten times the size of the Villa. It is located in LA on the 405 just north of Sunset Blvd. Reservations are not required, admission is free, though there is a charge for parking. Closed Mondays and major holidays. The architecture (by Richard Meier), location and views are spectacular. A brief orientation film is shown continuously in the Museum entrance hall. The collections include a wide variety of art including photographs, sculpture, paintings and furniture. The modern era is under-represented. While the Impressionist collection is impressive, it is really in the medieval and religious collections that the Getty is unique among large American museums. Tours, lectures and other events are listed in “Today at the Getty Center”, available free in the Museum entrance hall. Audio devices are available to rent for $5, but are not necessary for the average tourist; the exhibits are largely self-explanatory. Food and beverages are available all over the campus. As for the Villa, the ideal plan would be to arrive at the Center early, have a pleasant and scenic lunch after a couple of hours, and wander about as long as the feet hold up, finishing at the gift/book shop. You can’t see it all in a day, unless that is your goal.

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Did Mark Sanford go to Argentina because he was rejected by

In another stunning development in the ongoing Mark Sanford fiasco, Over the Line, Smokey! has learned that Sanford may have been trying to “dig some potatoes” a little closer to home than Argentina, but was rejected by, because of a statement he made in his application:
Over the Line, Smokey! cannot vouch for the authenticity of this document, although it was obtained from a reliable source.*

*the internet, I think it’s called.

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All foreign calls are being tapped. Period. All. Totally.

Attorney General Mukasey is spreading the fear, in order to scare Congress into legalizing Bush’s/telecom’s lawless surveillance. It’s clear why the Bush administration won’t bother with warrants, and it always has been. They just won’t admit it.

All phone calls coming to and from the US are being monitored en masse. It’s a total, mass, automated, all-encompassing system.

They work at the level of the massive trunk lines as they enter and leave the country, not at the level of some individual phone.  So they get ALL CALLS.

Every call. All calls. each call. your call, my call. his call, her call; Russ Feingold’s call…. tous les calls. All the time. All day, all night, weekends. 24/7/365.

That’s why they can’t bother with warrants and probable cause and suspicion and evidence and judges and rights. They have no evidence. They are just sifting through everything. Looking for particular words. Grabbing the words, guessing what thoughts might be behind the words. Policing the minds.

It’s an automated machine. Think of a huge net thrown over the entire ocean: no individual fish has any rights..the net can’t respect any rights. They are wiretapping the calls of every person in the United States, if they talk to anyone overseas. It demolishes the entire idea of freedom from unreasonable search.
And it’s not just a search issue.

In effect, every call is being censored. Think of it. Every call from every journalist in Iraq is being monitored, and so is every elected official in the US who might get any information from overseas. How can anyone talk about the Middle East without using words that would make the alarms go off? He who controls the flow of information controls the public mind.

And it operates in total secrecy. No one knows what words and phrases will trigger the alarms, or what happens next, in terms of lists and investigations, and how you are ever cleared of suspicion. We can be pretty confident that Bush’s Pioneer donor lists are a get out of jail free card, and that Democratic governors are a free fire zone, but that’s about all we can guess.

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Temperature in Angisoq, Greenland: a balmy 32 degrees


I may take a ride up to Angisoq; supposed to be this warm for the rest of the week. Better pack my sunscreen.

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Where your kids’ savings are going

NY Times

Nonstop Theft and Bribery Are Staggering Iraq

Jobless men pay $500 bribes to join the police. Families build houses illegally on government land, carwashes steal water from public pipes, and nearly everything the government buys or sells can now be found on the black market.

“Everyone is stealing from the state,” said Adel Adel al-Subihawi, a prominent Shiite tribal leader in Sadr City, throwing up his hands in disgust. “It’s a very large meal, and everyone wants to eat.”

Corruption and theft are not new to Iraq, and government officials have promised to address the problem. But as Iraqis and American officials assess the effects of this year’s American troop increase, there is a growing sense that, even as security has improved, Iraq has slipped to new depths of lawlessness.

One recent independent analysis ranked Iraq the third most corrupt country in the world. Of 180 countries surveyed, only Somalia and Myanmar were worse, according to Transparency International, a Berlin-based group that publishes the index annually.

And the extent of the theft is staggering. Some American officials estimate that as much as a third of what they spend on Iraqi contracts and grants ends up unaccounted for or stolen, with a portion going to Shiite or Sunni militias. In addition, Iraq’s top anticorruption official estimated this fall — before resigning and fleeing the country after 31 of his agency’s employees were killed over a three-year period — that $18 billion in Iraqi government money had been lost to various stealing schemes since 2004.

The collective filching undermines Iraq’s ability to provide essential services, a key to sustaining recent security gains, according to American military commanders.

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How to obtain YOUR Homeland Security travel records

For the first nine months of his administration, Bush sat around and ignored warnings about a 9-11-like attack, from the outgoing Clinton administration, the CIA and from its director, George Tenet; from his daily presidential briefings, and Bush even ignored the news of the attack. The 9/11 attacks could have been prevented under existing laws. The FBI had more data than they could handle, even then. But Bush and the darker forces at work in this country have now used 9-11 as an excuse to compile massive amounts of information on you and me…travel records, phone calls, internet postings, emails, even personal mail.
Your government has way too much information on you; since you are not a terrorist, how will they use it? any way they want to. They may use it against you politically, sell it, lose it, give it away, bungle it, or in as yet undreamed of ways, screw you with it.

You can at least see the unclassified part of it.


You have to download a couple forms, mail them in, and wait around for a month.

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Book review: William Alsup’s “Missing in the Minarets: The Search for Walter A. Starr, Jr.”

This is a small book but a very interesting read. The subject is the death of a prominent young mountaineer in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California in 1933, and the subsequent search for his body. I don’t think I am giving anything away by stating that they did find it.

The author brings in a considerable amount of material about the early days of moutaineering and the Sierra Club, and some relevant information about Starr’s family and friends. There are a number of previously unpublished photographs taken during the search; unfortunately, they are, like many other photos in the book, just pictures of mountains. Thankfully, there are several diagrams and maps which help to clarify the lay of the land. Still, the inability to really show the routes of the climbers is a deficiency; this seems to be a characteristic of this book genre. I don’t see why it’s so difficult, and I don’t see why authors and editors don’t understand the issue. All it would take is three or four well-chosen photographs (or even drawings) with the routes drawn in. Instead, there are the inevitable thousand words, which don’t provide an adequate mental image of the terrain, and inevitably make one’s head spin trying to understand the attempts at descriptions of spatial relationships.
The family had made the rather bizarre request that the remains be interred where he died. Well, such an effort on a hazardous spot on a huge rock mountain leads to certain (shall we say) consequences. The author ends with a fascinating description of a recent visit to the site.

I recommend this book, giving it a 3.5 out of 4.

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